Exhibition Spotlight: Crystal Ball and Stand

By Michael Kratochvil

This semester, the McMullen Museum is highlighting Japanese art through the “Eaglemania” exhibit and Spanish art through the “Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction” exhibit. Every so often, student ambassadors will select one piece from these collections to highlight in The Terrace.

Society of the Cincinnati

Somewhat hidden in the right corner of the “Eaglemania” exhibit is a small but captivating crystal ball, purchased by Isabel Anderson. The artifact was acquired by the Andersons during their 1897 honeymoon in Japan. It is loaned to the McMullen Museum by the Society of Cincinnati in Washington, D.C. and will be on display until June 2nd. 

The ball itself is made of a brilliantly clear rock crystal, giving it almost a mystical feel when one is observing it. At the time of the artifact’s creation, crystal ball gazing was quite popular in Europe and America, and Japan was widely recognized as the world leader in the crystal ball manufacturing industry. Thus, in the spirit of the times, its transcendental “aura” appears all the more plausible.

Supporting the crystal is an ivory stand, meticulously crafted into a mesmerizing dragon figure. From its jagged teeth, to its countless scales, to the sharp spikes on its back, the impressively detailed dragon figure perfectly complements the stunningly smooth and simplistic crystal ball.

While the ball and stand is one of our smaller artifacts, it still attracts a large amount of attention, and justifiably so as it was the second most expensive artifact purchased by the Andersons while they were abroad. Its $1500 price tag in 1897 for two crystal balls would be equivalent to a $45,000 purchase today, and given the piece’s brilliance, it seems that it was well worth the money.

Come to the McMullen Museum to see the Crystal Ball and Stand and other great works of art in person!

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